Veale Snyder Fellows recall San Francisco class trek; “the most inspirational week of my life”

VEAL333 students pose in front of Amazon logo

Many imagine Silicon Valley as being a mecca of technology, a premier global innovation hub and an enthralling place to work. 

Veale Snyder Fellows enrolled in Case Western Reserve University’s VEAL 333: Global Technology Leadership course had the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley and many of its top companies from October 23-25.

The fellows’ trip facilitated introductions and office tours of several top companies in the valley area including Amazon, Salesforce, Slack, Netflix and Goodyear. Along with Veale Institute of Entrepreneurship executive director Michael Goldberg and senior director of corporate relations Mindy Baierl, the students relished the chance to connect with successful CWRU alumni and ask questions about their professional journeys.

Impactful lessons from the alumni revolved around pursuing true passion in the workplace, serving the customer optimally and giving before receiving as a means to cultivate your network. 

Second-year computer engineering major Emmanuel Makoye described the class trip to Silicon Valley as “the most inspirational week” of his life because of the impactful takeaways that the group gathered from the influential people they interacted with. 

While meeting with Travis Brooks (CWR ‘97; physics), product manager of the experimentation platform for Netflix, Makoye said he learned about “not being afraid in case we are unsure of what to do in life.” 

“[Brooks] also gave us insights into how they use data to make impactful decisions at Netflix,” he added. “My favorite phrase he said is, ‘sometimes you don't need so much data to make a decision.’ I was also lucky enough to meet other CWRU alums who advised on so many things including how to create a strong network, how to navigate life after college and more.”

Between advice urging students to grow networks in their youth and stories about taking new risks, the speakers expressed a passion for uplifting and challenging the next generation of innovators to embrace the empowering lessons learned from failures.

The fellows discussed myriad hot topics in the tech industry related to product management, artificial intelligence, marketing, branding and data-inspired decision making. These conversations with established alumni illustrate Silicon Valley’s revamped focus on connecting with the customer and genuinely hearing their voices on a business to business and business to consumer front. With much of the world’s talent and enterprises looking to the valley for thought leadership and post-pandemic strategizing, it is an extraordinary riveting moment in time for the distinguished tech region. Seeing CWRU alumni dominating their innovative spaces made the dream of contributing to Silicon Valley businesses seem much more real and attainable.

Not only was visiting some of the world’s premier companies and touring their offices inspiring, but hearing about the beginnings of a new startup was especially galvanizing for some of the fellows. Stan Garber (CWR ‘07) and Alex Yakubovich (CWR ‘07) discussed their beginnings creating websites during their years at the university, their post-grad professional journey and their new start-up journey with Levelpath (enterprise procurement software). Their counsel on understanding the customer’s needs and existing problems while being adaptable was helpful for any students wishing to build their own company in the future.

It is easy to learn about these top companies from a quick online search, but stepping into the offices of best-in-class talent, observing their dynamic work cultures and picking their brains was a unique opportunity that the Veale Snyder Fellows will remember for years to come.

The fellows will have another opportunity to build their network and learn from the nation’s best talent when they embark on their journey to the Consumer Electronics Show that will be held in Winchester, Nevada at the Las Vegas Convention Center in January 2023.

By Abraham Desir & Megan Kuhar